Scientific reports

Subalpine Pyrenees received higher nitrogen deposition than predicted by EMEP and CHIMERE chemistry-transport models.

PMID 26255956


Deposition of reactive nitrogen (N) from the atmosphere is expected to be the third greatest driver of biodiversity loss by the year 2100. Chemistry-transport models are essential tools to estimate spatially explicit N deposition but the reliability of their predictions remained to be validated in mountains. We measured N deposition and air concentration over the subalpine Pyrenees. N deposition was found to range from 797 to 1,463 mg N m(-2) year(-1). These values were higher than expected from model predictions, especially for nitrate, which exceeded the estimations of EMEP by a factor of 2.6 and CHIMERE by 3.6. Our observations also displayed a reversed reduced-to-oxidized ratio in N deposition compared with model predictions. The results highlight that the subalpine Pyrenees are exposed to higher levels of N deposition than expected according to standard predictions and that these levels exceed currently recognized critical loads for most high-elevation habitats. Our study reveals a need to improve the evaluation of N deposition in mountains which are home to a substantial and original part of the world's biodiversity.